By BRAD BAUGHMAN
For The Democrat
Thom Miller is in his 21st season as the head coach of the girls tennis team at Brown County High School, and he has probably never had a team get off to such a hot start as his 2023 team.
The Eagles, currently 9-3 overall and 3-0 in the Western Indiana Conference, won their first six matches of the season.
Two of those wins were against teams that have traditionally been tough on the Eagles, the Columbus East Olympians and the Bloomington South Panthers.
While some may find the Eagles’ early season success surprising, Miller is not one of them.
“We had good expectations coming into this season after finishing last season as the Western Indiana Conference Conference Co-Champions and ending with a record of 12-8. We graduated three of our seven varsity starters, but we returned with an experienced group of players at all positions,” Miller said.
Three juniors occupy the singles positions for Brown County. Anna Stogsdill is back at No. 1 singles, while Anna Tipton returns to the No. 2 spot.
Julia Burt, who played doubles last season, has snagged the No. 3 singles position for Miller’s squad.
The No. 1 doubles team is composed of seniors Katie Tipton and Londyn Koester, who missed last season due to injury. New to the varsity lineup is the No. 2 doubles team of juniors Cady Kemp and Ava Kelly, but Miller has confidence in the duo.
“They have worked hard to step into these varsity spots ready to compete right away,” said Miller.
The team’s three losses all came to state ranked teams, West Lafayette, Westfield, and Delta, the Eagles faced after making the two and a half hour trip north to the Delta Invitational April 15.
Since returning from Delta, the Eagles have launched another undefeated streak with victories over Brownstown, Martinsville, and South Putnam Junior Atheena Doughty helped the Eagles in their wins over Brownstown and Martinsville, while Ashlyn Mercer subbed in for an injured Ava Kelly in the South Putnam win.
An outright conference championship is something Miller and his team would dearly love to achieve this season.
“The Western Indiana Conference is a strong conference with upcoming matches that will challenge this strong Eagles lineup,” Miller said.
“We feel confident but know we will compete well against the top teams Greencastle, Sullivan, and Northview. We are looking forward to these matches and will finish conference play against Northview in our home match with them on Friday, May 5.”
When the regular season play is over and the WIC title has been determined, the Eagles will turn their attention to the IHSAA Sectional play, where regardless of their season record, they will always be considered an underdog.
“Post season is always our greatest challenge in our sectional that includes perennial powerhouse, Columbus North. Tennis is not a classed-sport, so to move forward in the state series, we would need to defeat the Bulldogs head to head,” said Miller.
While Miller has worked hard to get the girls tennis program on solid ground, he is quick to acknowledge those who are assisting him. Nate Tipton is in his second year with the Eagles as an assistant coach, and Tracy Blee is leading the middle school program that Miller so readily depends on.
“We have a strong feeder program with excellent coaching, so our future is bright with these young student-athletes preparing to step up to the tradition this current team is building,” Miller said.
If the blazing-hot start can propel the Eagles through the grind of the second half of the season where a conference title and a chance to be a sectional giant killer are at stake, Miller’s team will at least put itself in position to make some really good memories.